LONDON FOR FREE – THE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM
The Natural History Museum is recognised as the pre-eminent centre for studying natural history and for research in related fields. It is home to some 80 million specimens, which are divided between five main collections: botany, entomology, mineralogy, paleontology and zoology. The museum is particularly famous for its exhibition of dinosaur skeletons. The most famous is a large Diplodocus cast. This used to dominate the vaulted central hall but it has been moved to another large hall and has been replaced by a Blue Whale.
The museum is a world-renowned centre of research specialising in taxonomy, identification and conservation. Given the age of the institution, many of the collections have great historical as well as scientific value, such as specimens collected by Charles Darwin. The museum library contains extensive books, journals, manuscripts, and artwork collections linked to the work and research of the scientific departments.
The foundation collection belonged to Sir Hans Sloane (1660–1753), who allowed his significant collection to be purchased by the British Government at a price well below their market value at the time. Sloane’s collection, which included dried plants, and animal and human skeletons, was initially housed within the British Museum. The museum was moved to a new building in South Kensington near the V&A and the Science Museums. Due to its ornate architecture it is sometimes dubbed a ‘cathedral of nature’. It was designed by Alfred Waterhouse and construction of the new museum building began in 1873. It was completed in 1880 and opened in 1881. However the move from the old museum was not fully completed until 1883. Both the interior and exterior of the Waterhouse building make extensive use of terracotta tiles to resist the sooty atmosphere of Victorian London. The tiles and bricks feature many relief sculptures of flora and fauna, with living and extinct species featured within the west and east wings respectively. The Darwin Centre is a more recent addition, partly designed as a modern facility for storing the valuable collections.
For further information go to http://www.nhm.ac.uk/
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